Would capped payments deter pharma whistleblowers?

Are whistleblowers paid too much? A former U.S. attorney thinks so. Michael Loucks, a former prosecutor in Boston, is advocating for a cap of $2 million, the Wall Street Journal reports. That's far less than the record-setting $96 million awarded a former GlaxoSmithKline staffer who raised the red flag on manufacturing problems there.

As Loucks sees it, the False Claims Act that set up whistleblower payments--calculated as a share of the money recovered by the U.S. government via FCA lawsuits--wasn't designed for enormous settlements. And the settlements with pharma companies have become enormous: $750 million in that GSK case, just as one example. "[N]o one anticipated there would be recoveries in the hundreds of millions of dollars," he told the WSJ Health Blog.

Employees would still blow the whistle, Loucks figures; historically, potential payments of less than $1 million have inspired whistleblowers to come forward, he says. And that's the goal, he adds.

As the Health Blog notes, a survey of pharma whistleblowers found that money wasn't the motivating factor for most of them; integrity and public safety were. Nevertheless, even large awards didn't fully make up for the personal cost of pursuing a whistleblower suit, the survey found.

- read the Health Blog post